By Sangeetha Saran
When a practitioner decides to become a yoga instructor, he or she won’t be prepared for every teaching niche. This is the case with teaching those who participate in running events. Runners often turn to asana practice as an effective cross-training activity. Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga give an effective and complementary option for dedicated runners and those who are training for 5ks through full marathons.
One reason why yoga is so effective for runners is that it combats some side effects of running training. Running can sometimes over train muscles, at the expense of strengthening the joints and tendons of the body. Any type of stretching can help runners regain flexibility and movement in the joints, and yoga’s focus on body awareness helps runners monitor where they feel stiff and work on those areas. As runners gain experience, they learn that a stiff and inflexible body can limit the amount of power and efficiency that can hinder the quest to improve personal best times.
Another reason why yoga is a popular cross-training activity is that standing poses allow runners to further develop leg muscles. Warrior II allows the calves and inner thighs to strengthen without adding bulk to the body. Balancing poses such as Tree or Warrior III develop not only the knees and ankles but the abdominal muscles. As runners advance, they learn that abdominal muscles are as important to their strength as the muscles in the leg, and poses such as boat or side planks can help develop the muscles of the core.
Just like in yoga training, many runners will initially turn to the sport for purely physical reasons. They want to lose pounds or improve muscle tone. The more runners run, they are pleased to discover that there is a more spiritual side of running. As a solitary action, training allows a runner to stay inside his or her body, and can lead to a meditative practice. Runners who eventually turn to running as their “walking meditation” are often reluctant to spend time on an activity that does not relax them or give them a more spiritual payoff. Yoga is perfect for giving a runner another activity that will deepen their spiritual growth as well as sculpt their body.
Yoga teachers who work with runners who are new to asana practice should concentrate on helping students who are often physically inflexible. Keep in mind that some runners have a “Type A personality,” and can be impatient with slowly improving their flexibility. Practicing yogic techniques as an alternative form of exercise can help these athletes let go of the need to constantly improve and judge while giving them a calmer mind and improved flexibility.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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